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An Experimental Study of the Nature of Consumer Expectations

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  • Fergus Bolger

    (Durham Business School)

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    Abstract

    Although important both theoretically and practically, the nature of consumer economic expectation formation has been little studied, particularly by psychologists. The most relevant previous research suggests that expectations are based on a heuristic that results in them being significantly biased. Further, relevant indicator series are poorly utilized. However, this earlier research used a task lacking in potentially important features of the real world, and this may have impaired performance. In the current experiment, participants received a more ecologically-valid task. Although there was still evidence of heuristic use, leading to suboptimal performance and bias, this performance was significantly better than anticipated from previous research, particularly regarding use of indicator series. However, when a strong trend in the criterion series allowed accurate forecasting without consideration of indicators, they were little used. I conclude that expectations are formed by first extrapolating the criterion series and only if that works poorly is other relevant information considered. Thus consumers appear to trade-off accuracy against effort, such that more effort is expended only when some threshold of acceptable performance fails to be reached.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Durham University Business School in its series Working Papers with number 2011_05.

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    Date of creation: 01 Jan 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:dur:durham:2011_05

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    Postal: Durham University Business School, Mill Hill Lane, Durham DH1 3LB, England
    Phone: +44 (0)191 334 5200
    Fax: +44 (0)191 334 5201
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    Web page: http://www.dur.ac.uk/business
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    Related research

    Keywords: Taxation; endogenous fertility; critical level utilitarianism; population.;

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    1. Katona, George, 1974. " Psychology and Consumer Economics," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 1-8, June.
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